|Was a Muslim,|
|Now openly rejects Islam, |
|Has made this decision freely and without coercion, |
|Is aware of the nature of his/her statements, and|
|Is an adult. then the penalty prescribed by Shari'a (Islamic) law is execution for men and life imprisonment for women. Drunkards and mentally ill persons are excluded from this punishment because they are considered to be not responsible for their statements.|
A person born of a Muslim parent who later rejects Islam is called a "Murtad Fitri" (Apostate - natural). This is viewed a treason against God. They are given a second chance. If they repent of their decision, they will be released. A person who converted to Islam and later rejected the religion is a "Murtad Milli" (apostate - from the community.) This is viewed as treason against the community. Male apostates are executed even if they repent. Female apostates are released from imprisonment if they repent.
|"Whoever changes his religion shall be killed." (Abu Dawud)|
|"It is not lawful to kill a man who is a Muslim except for one of the three reasons: Kufr (disbelief) after accepting Islam....." (Abu Dawud).|
This is an alternative belief heard increasingly within Islam: that religious freedom and the absence of compulsion in religion requires that individuals be allowed adopt a religion or to convert to another religion without legal penalty. Of course, whether a person who leaves Islam can be expected to be free of condemnation from their family and neighbors is a different matter.
One group promoting this belief is Sisters in Islam (SIS), "a group of Muslim professional women committed to promoting the rights of women within the framework of Islam." 2 They claim that the death penalty is not an appropriate response to apostasy:
|The former Chief Justice of Pakistan, SA Rahman, has written that
there is no reference to the death penalty in any of the 20 instances of
apostasy mentioned in the Qur'an. 3|
|The quotation from Surah An-Nisa', 4:137, shown at the top of this
essay, seems to imply
that multiple, sequential apostasies are possible. That would not be
possible if the person were executed after the first apostasy.|
|Muslims who support the death penalty for apostasy often base their
belief partly on a hadith in which he
said: "Kill whoever changes his religion." But this is a weak
Dr. Maher Hathout, author of "In Pursuit of Justice: The Jurisprudence of Human Rights in Islam," writes:
"We strongly oppose the state's use of coercion in regulating Islamic belief in such a manner, since faith is a matter of individual choice on which only God can adjudicate."
Referring to the two hadiths traditionally used to justify the death penalty, Hathout writes:
"...both of them contradict the Quran and other instances in which the Prophet did not compel anyone to embrace Islam, nor punish them if they recanted."
"In one incident, the Prophet pardoned Abdullah bin Sa'd, after he renounced Islam. Abdullah bin Sa'd was one of the people chosen by the Prophet as a scribe, to write down Qur'anic text as it was revealed to the Prophet. After spending some time with the Muslims in Madina, he recanted and returned to the religion of the Quraish. When he was brought before the Prophet, Osman bin Affan pleaded on his behalf, and the Prophet subsequently pardoned Abdullah bin Sa'd (Ibn Hisham).
"The problem with the argument for punishment for apostasy is that it cannot be applied in any Islamic state without giving rise to the potential for abuse by the state itself. Erroneously equating moral with political power in the determination of law has led to the political repression that we see in Islamic countries today. We must separate the right of God from that of man in defining freedom of religion as a legal right. The right of God refers only to the moral obligations of Muslims towards God, and is adjudicated by God. The state cannot act as a coercive moral authority, in effect representing God's Will on earth, because it does not have the right to do so. In the context of freedom of religion, the state's responsibility is to uphold and protect it as the right of all humans, as granted by God, without exercising moral judgment on the content and/or manner of exercising those religious beliefs." 4,5
|Dr. T. O.Shanavas writes on the Toledo Muslims website:|
"A passage in he Qur'an states:
"A section of the People of the Book say: 'Believe in the morning what is revealed to the believers, But reject it at the end of the day; perchance they may (themselves) turn back.' [3:72] "
"A section of People of the Book used a tactic to create doubt among the Muslims in the hope that some of them might thereby be beguiled into repudiating Islam. How could it be possible for non-Muslims to have enacted this plan to entice Muslims to believe one day and reject next, if death was the penalty for apostasy? ... The Qur’an does not rule to kill the apostates."
"Abdullah b.Ubayy b.Salul was the leader of the munafiqun (hypocrites). But Prophet (s) took no action against him. Prophet prayed for him and stayed at the grave until he was buried. Those fanatics among us must explain the reason for Prophet (s) not executing the known hypocrites like Abdullah b.Ubayy. Ubbay lived until death plotting to destroy Islam and Prophet knew it. He was not executed for apostasy. This suggests that apostasy law is not a divine law but interpolation by fanatics among us. ..."
"The Qur'an states:
'How shall God guide those who reject Faith after they accepted it and bore witness that the apostle was true and that clear signs had come unto them? But God guides not a people unjust. Of such the reward is that on them (rests) the curse of the God, of His Angels, and of all mankind;--In that will they dwell; nor will their penalty be lightened, nor respite be their lot;--except for those that repent (even) after that, make amends; For verily God is oft-forgiving, most merciful'. [3:86-89]"
"It is obvious from these verses that no punishment is to be inflicted by one man or another for apostasy. By no stretch of the imagination can the phrase, "curse of Allah," be interpreted to be a license to murder anyone who he considers to be an apostate. If any such commandment was prescribed it would have been clearly defined as all other punishments are in the Holy Qur'an." 6
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, "Apostacy (Irtidad) in Islam," at: http://www.al-islam.org/short/apostacy.htm
Copyright © 2001 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2001-AUG-6
Latest update: 2018-MAY-19
Author: B.A. Robinson
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